By Tom Easterby - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Liverpool 2 (Sturridge 2, Lallana 30)
Newcastle United 1 (Cisse 48, Colback 66)
Jack Colback's second-half equaliser ensured Rafa Benitez enjoyed a memorable return to Anfield as Newcastle United came back from 2-0 down to earn a draw at Liverpool.
Daniel Sturridge's well-placed early opener and Adam Lallana's fine strike 15 minutes before the break left United with a mountain to climb in the second half, but Papiss Cisse's header reduced the Reds' advantage early in the second half.
And Jack Colback's first goal of the season with 24 minutes left completed the unlikely comeback and earned Benitez and his team a valuable point.
The Magpies, though, were playing catch up almost immediately after the off on Merseyside. Alberto Moreno lofted a free kick from the left into England frontman Sturridge, and the 26-year-old held his ground, spun to face goal and planted his left-footed effort beyond the reach of Karl Darlow and into the bottom right-hand corner with barely a minute on the clock.
It was a disastrous start for Benitez, who had named an unchanged team following the spirited 1-1 draw with Manchester City at St. James' Park in midweek. His opposite number, Jurgen Klopp, fielded a youthful team for the game, perhaps with their Europa League semi-final coming up on Thursday. Kevin Stewart and Connor Randall both started for the Reds, who were captained by former Newcastle man James Milner.
And it was the hosts who dictated much of the first half. Lallana, popping up in front of the United defence, looked to feed Sturridge with a pass over the top, which was overhit. Moreno then centred for Lallana, who couldn't get a shot away before Roberto Firmino's effort was blocked and Sturridge sent one over Darlow's crossbar from 25 yards.
Inevitably, though, the Reds' pressure told. Moreno, on another foray forward from left back, cut inside and fed ex-Southampton man Lallana, who curled a superb shot past Darlow and into the top left corner to deservedly extend Liverpool's lead.
Brazilian international Firmino could have bagged a third for his side, but for a crucial last-gasp sliding challenge from Chancel Mbemba with the forward bearing down on goal and about to pull the trigger.
Aside from a wayward Vurnon Anita strike after a neat pasage of play involving Cheick Tiote, Ayoze Perez and Cisse, the Magpies found attacking opportunities hard to come by in the first 45. Perez was withdrawn at the break, with Georginio Wijnaldum - who went so close to winning the game against City in midweek - on in his place.
Benitez's side appeared energised after the break, and they managed to claw themselves back into the contest within three minutes of the restart. Moreno misjudged the flight of the ball in mid-air, allowing Andros Townsend to profit and feed Moussa Sissoko, who gave it to the overlapping Anita. The Dutchman's deep cross was superb and, with Simon Mignolet stranded, Cisse rose to nod home in front of the Kop and give the travelling Magpies faithful hope.
And Cisse could have pulled Newcastle level just minutes later. When Sturridge saw his penalty claim waved away by referee Andre Marriner, the visitors broke through Wijnaldum, who put Cisse one-on-one with Mignolet.
But the Senegalese striker took too many touches and failed to get his shot away, with the ball eventually falling to Townsend, whose shot cleared the bar and let Liverpool off the hook.
Sissoko headed a free kick goalwards as Benitez's men continued to press, but their opponents retained a threat, as evidenced by Firmino's close-range tap in after Darlow had saved Joe Allen's header, which was correctly flagged offside.
But on 66 minutes, the Magpies drew level. Sissoko played in Townsend on the left, and the former Tottenham winger crossed towards Cisse. It didn't reach its target, but the loose ball fell kindly for Colback, whose half volley took a deflection which wrongfooted Mignolet and drew United level.
It was a marked change to how proceedings had unfolded in the first half, with Newcastle by now firmly on the front foot. Aleksandar Mitrovic and former Red Jonjo Shelvey were both introduced by Benitez with the game still seemingly open enough for a winner to materialise.
But ultimately, despite a nervy last ten minutes in which Klopp's side pushed hard for a winner, the Magpies held on to earn a vital point in their battle to stay in the Barclays Premier League.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Simon Mignolet; Connor Randall (Philippe Coutinho 71), Kolo Toure, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno; Kevin Stewart, Joe Allen (Lucas Leiva 71), James Milner; Adam Lallana (Sheyi Ojo 83), Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge
Unused subs: Danny Ward, Jordon Ibe, Martin Skrtel, Brad Smith
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Karl Darlow; Vurnon Anita, Chancel Mbemba, Jamaal Lascelles, Paul Dummett; Andros Townsend, Cheick Tiote (Jonjo Shelvey 83), Jack Colback, Moussa Sissoko; Ayoze Perez (Georginio Wijnaldum 46); Papiss Cisse (Aleksandar Mitrovic 74)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Bookings: Liverpool - James Milner (53); Newcastle United - Cheick Tiote (22)